Rialto Bridge (Venice, Italy)

Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge (ItalianPonte di Rialto), one of the four bridges (and the oldest) spanning the 3,800 m. long, S-shaped Grand Canal, is one of the architectural icons of Venice.  The dividing line for the  the sestieri (districts) of San Marco and San Polo, it is renowned as an architectural and engineering achievement of the Renaissance.

A gondola passing under the bridge

This pedestrian bridge had its beginning in 1181 as a pontoon bridge called the Ponte della Moneta (presumably because of the mint that stood near its eastern entrance) built, at the narrowest point of the canal, by Nicolò Barattieri. In 1255, the development and importance of the Rialto market on the eastern bank, necessitated its replacement by a timber bridge with two inclined ramps, meeting at a movable central section, that could be raised to allow the passage of tall galleys. The connection with the Rialto market eventually led to a change of the bridge’s name. The painting Miracle of the Relic of the Cross at the Ponte di Rialto, by Italian Renaissance artist Vittore Carpaccio, dates back to 1496, the time when the bridge was still in wood.

The painting Miracle of the Relic of the Cross at the Ponte di Rialto, by Vittore Carpaccio, can be found at the Gallerie dell’Accademia

During the first half of the 15th century, two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge, its rents and taxes bringing an income (which helped maintain the bridge in working order) to the State Treasury. In 1310, it was partly burnt during the revolt led by Bajamonte Tiepolo. In 1444, it collapsed under the weight of a crowd watching a boat parade in celebration of wedding of the Marquis Ferrara. In 1524, the bridge collapsed again.

In 1503, the idea of rebuilding the bridge in stone was first proposed. Over the following decades, several projects were considered. In 1551, the authorities, among other things, requested proposals for the renewal of the Rialto Bridge and plans were offered by famous architects such as Jacopo SansovinoPalladio and Vignola (Michelangelo  was also considered as a designer of the bridge), all involving a Classical approach with several arches (which would hinder the river traffic), and all judged inappropriate to the situation.

The present 48 m. (157 ft.) long and 7.32 m. (24 ft.) high stone arch bridge, designed and built by Swiss-born Venetian architect and engineer Antonio da Ponte (appropriately translated as “Anthony of the Bridge”) and his nephew, Antonio Contino (the architect of the Bridge of Sighs, Venice’s second most talked about bridge), was started in 1588 and completed in 1591.

Similar to the wooden bridge it succeeded, it consisted of a massive single 28.8 m. (94.5 ft.) long span, built on some 6,000 wooden piles driven under each abutment in the soft alluvial soil, with two inclined covered ramps lead up to a central portico. The bed joints of the stones were placed perpendicular to the thrust of the arch. The lower chord of the bridge has a length of 25 m. (83 ft.) and a width of 22.9 m. (75.1 ft.). Stone reliefs on the bridge depict St. Mark, the city’s patron, and St. Theodore and the Annuciation

Its design was considered so audacious so much so that architect Vincenzo Scamozzi predicted its future ruin.  However, the bridge has defied its critics and is now a significant tourist attraction in the city. The bridge has three walkways.  Two are located along the outer balustrades while the wider central walkway is lined by two arcades of small shops selling jewelry, linens, Murano glass, and other tourist items.

Rialto Bridge: Sestiere San Polo, 30125 VeniceItaly. As the bridge consists primarily of steps, crossing it is a challenge for tourists with strollers or wheelchairs.

How to Get There: From the train station or the Piazzale Roma or if you’re walking from St. Mark’s Square, simply follow the signs to “Rialto.” From the square,  head for the clock tower, cut through the arched passage, and follow the upscale shopping streets (known as the Mercerie) until you reach the Grand Canal, then turn right and walk two blocks to the bridge. Another option is to approach the bridge via the No. 1 vaporetto (water bus) which stops at Rialto on its way up or down the Grand Canal.

The Iconic Foot Bridges of the Grand Canal (Venice, Italy)

Grand Canal

Fascinating Venice, often called the “City of Canals,” is also known as the “City of Bridges” because of the 400-plus pedestrian bridges, both nondescript and practical, that crisscross its waterways and embody the city’s beauty and history.  However, only four of these bridges span the Grand Canal.

Rialto Bridge

The photogenic Rialto Bridge (Ponte de Rialto), the first and oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal, is still in use, connecting the sestieri  (districts) of San Marco and San Polo.  One of the city’s most famous landmarks, rows of shops (mostly jewellers and souvenir shops) line each side of this wide, stone arched bridge which is the gateway to the famous nearby Rialto (the name Rialto is derived from the words rivo alto meaning “high bank”) food market, the city’s principal food market since the 11th century located west of the span.  Built along the so-called “lazy bend” of the waterway (between its two highest points above sea level) and its narrowest point, tourists flock here to see this famous bridge and its views of the gondola-filled Grand Canal waterway. It has fairly steep flights of steps. Until the completion of the Accademia Bridge in 1854, this was the only bridge over the Grand Canal.

Check out “Rialto Bridge

The Academy Bridge (Ponte dell Accademia), so named because it crosses the Grand Canal (near the southern end) at the Gallerie dell’Accademia (one of the top museums in Venice after whom it  is named for), links the sestieri of Dorsoduro and San Marco.

Check out “Gallerie dell’Accademia

The original steel structure, designed by Alfred Neville and opened on November 20, 1854, was demolished and replaced by a wooden bridge designed by Eugenio Miozzi and opened in 1933 (despite widespread hopes for a stone bridge).

Ponte de Accademia

In 1986, when the 1930s bridge was deemed too dangerous, the total replacement of the wooden elements was necessary and metal arches, capable of supporting the structure better, were inserted. Interesting because of its high arch construction and the fact that it is made of wood, Venice authorities have attempted to crack down on lovers attaching padlocks (“love locks“) to the metal hand rails of the bridge.

Approach to Ponte de Accademia

The elegant stone arch Scalzi Bridge (Ponte degli Scalzi or Ponte dei Scalzi), named for the nearby Chiesa degli Scalzi (literally the “Church of the Barefoot Monks”), links the  sestieri of Santa Croce, on the south side, and Cannaregio on the north side. If you are arriving in Venice, via rail, to the Santa Lucia (Ferrovia) railway station, the Scalzi Bridge will be one of the first bridges you will cross after disembarking. Designed by Eugenio Miozzi, it was completed in 1934, replacing an Austrian iron bridge.

Ponte degli Scalzi

The Scalzi is located a mere stone-throw away to Ponte di Calatrava, the fourth and final of the four bridges to span the Grand Canal. Strategically located, it links the Stazione di Santa Lucia, on the north, to Piazzale Roma (the city’s arrival point by car/bus), on the south side of the Grand Canal, a bus depot (this bridge is closer to the bus station than the Scalzi bridge) and car park.  Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and constructed by Cignoni, its design and installation studies were carried out by a specialized group – Prof. Renato Vitaliani (Padua University) and Prof. Francesco Colleselli (Brescia University) for geotechnical and foundation aspects; the company Mastropasqua-Zanchin & Associates Structural Engineering for the steel arch and weldings verification; and Fagioli Group and Giorgio Romaro (Padua University) for the installation activities.

Ponte della Costituzione

A controversial addition to Venice’s architectural landscape because of its cost (its official budget for the project of €6.7 million ballooned to approximately €10 million), its construction and inauguration was also delayed by heated criticism, walk-outs and protests by politicians and the general public, in part, due to controversy over its Modernist-Minimalist style (being incompatible with Venice’s decorative medieval architecture),  the lack of wheelchair access (its many steps, embedded in its relatively steep pavement, means that elderly people will have difficulty climbing it and wheelchair users are excluded from crossing) and lack of necessity (the distances between Scalzi and Rialto Bridges or between the Rialto and Ponte dell’Accademia bridges are severalfold longer, and with no other way to cross the canal besides the vaporetto or traghetto).

However, its basic span was finally moved into place by a large barge from July to August 11, 2007 and the bridge was opened for public use on the night of September 11, 2008. In 2010, a mobility lift system, resembling cocoons, was installed, incurring large costs as  it was not part of the original design.

This arched truss bridge, designed to be constructed off-site and installed entirely from the canal, has a large radius of 180 m. (590 ft.).  It has a central arch, two side arches and two lower arches, all joined together by girders (consisting of steel tubes and plates which forms closed section boxes) placed perpendicular to the arches.The bridge stairway, paved with pietra d’Istria (a stone traditionally used in Venice), has tempered glass steps illuminated from below by fluorescent lights. The tempered glass parapet  terminates in a bronze handrail with concealed lighting.

Formerly known as Quarto Ponte sul Canal Grande, the official name of Ponte della Costituzione (English: Constitution Bridge) was adopted in 2008 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Italian constitution. However, tourists and locals in Venice still refer to it as the Calatrava Bridge (ItalianPonte di Calatrava). Today, this bridge is important, both functionally and symbolically, as it connects arriving visitors to the city, welcoming them to Venice with a panoramic view of the Grand Canal.

Murano Glass Museum (Venice, Italy)

Murano Glass Museum (Museo del Vetro)

The Murano Glass Museum (ItalianMuseo del Vetro), a museum on the millennial history of glass, including local Murano glass, is housed in the Vescovi Palace, the former residence of the bishops of Torcello. Originally built in the Gothic style, this patrician’s palace became the residence of Bishop Marco Giustinian in 1659. He later bought it and donated it to the Torcello diocese.

Jandy, Cheska, Grace and Kyle at the museum garden

This Glass Museum, founded in 1861 by Abbot Zanetti, became part of the Venetian Civic Museums in 1923, following the fusion of Murano with Venice.  In 1932, its collections were put in order under the guidance of Giulio Lorenzetti and Nino Barbantini who adopted more modern criteria regarding display techniques.

Museum exhibit

The museum’s collection, further expanded by the addition of the Correr, Cicogna and Molin Collections, includes, among other things, the most beautiful Renaissance pieces in the museum. Except for occasional purchases, the museum’s contemporary collection are enriched by donations made by the island’s glassworks.  It is run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (MUVE).

A collection of glass beads

Paintings of famous glassmakers

The museum is divided into the following sections:

  • Archaeological Section  (Ground floor) – its most outstanding exhibits come from the necropolises of Enona (Zara), noteworthy Roman works dating from the 1st to the 3rd century A.D. including objects with depictions of animals and plants, glass murrini and examples of applications and decorations used in ancient times.
  • Murano Glass in the 15th Century – the evolution, from ‘crystal clear’ glass, to the pure and transparent glass that, during the next century, leads to the development of new decorative techniques.
  • Murano Glass in the 16th Century – the century in which the precious Murano glass goes beyond national borders to spread throughout Europe,  on display are lattimo glass; white opaque glass like porcelain; glass used in filigree or decorated with enamels; and ice glass with a typical cracked outer surface.
  • Murano Glass in the 17th Century – considered to be the century of the so-called glass à la façon de Venise, the most prestigious Murano glass, the 17th century is also the beginning of the decline because of the massive exodus of Murano glassmakers abroad. Towards the end of the century the market began to prefer Bohemian glass.

Murano Glass in the 13th – 17th Century

  • Murano Glass in the 18th Century – Murano Glass acquired new life thanks to Joseph Briati. Examples of his vast output on display include chiocche (crystal chandeliers decorated with multiple arms); deseri (table triumphs), famous for their ornamental richness and variety of the subjects represented; and beautiful mirrors.

Murano Glass in the 18th Century

  • Murano Glass in the 19th Century – production of Murano Glass art goes through a period of technique and aesthetics decline. From the second half of the 19th century, blown glass by Antonio Salviati and reproduction of Roman mosaic glass by Vincenzo Moretti offered new ideas to the glassmaking industry.
  • Murano Glass in the 20th Century – the traditional techniques of glass working began to be used for more modern creations at the beginning of this century– as demonstrated in the ‘Peacock  murrina‘ and Vittorio Zecchin’s Plate. After the First World War, many artists began working closely with the furnaces on the island. Umberto Bellotto, with the cooperation of the Barovier artists and fantastic glassy fabrics created by Carlo Scarpa for Venini, designed daring combinations of glass and wrought iron. After World War II, Murano develops an interest in the chromatic effects of the glass as can be seen in the works of Ercole Barovier, the noteworthy sculptures of Alfredo Barbini and the creations of watermarks by Archimede Seguso.

Murano Glass in the 20th Century

The upper floor houses a collection of glass from the 15th to the 20th century (one of the most complete in the world), including world famous realizations by the famous Barovier & Toso glass company and glass textiles designed by Carlo Scarpa in the late 1930s.

Chiocche (crystal chandeliers)

The exhibit, interspersed throughout with innumerable glass objects reflective of the era covered and the specific techniques of production for each century, took us through the history of glass making solely on Murano, starting with the 14th -17th century apogee of the art and, continuing into modern times, in more detail with the 18th and 19th century of jousting of Murano with Bohemia as the world’s leader in this art form. Then, it continues with its downturn, after Napoleon,  and revival in the late 19th century (thanks to enterprising locals of the industry).  Modern day art ended our tour.

Miniature garden made entirely of Murano glass

Also on display are a fine collection of beads and an equally splendid exhibition of classic table ware. At a small hall just by the entrance, we watched a cool video presentation on glassware making.

The Minimalist displays, in 6 big, easy to navigate and wheelchair-friendly rooms, were.impressive and occasionally stunning to the eye and our 2-hour visit here was educational and worthwhile.

Murano Glass Museum: Fondamenta Giustinian 8, 30121 MuranoVeniceItaly. Tel: +39 041 739586. Website: www.museiciviciveneziani.it. Open from April 1 to November 1, 10 AM – 6 PM (ticket office: 10 AM – 5 PM); from November 2 to March 31, 10 AM  – 5 PM (ticket office: 10 AM – 4 PM); closed on December 25 and January 1. Admission: €4.00 (reductions for pensioners and students), €6.50 for a ticket which usually combines entrance to the Glass Museum and the Lace Museum on Burano.

How to Get There: From the Piazzale Roma or Ferrovia (the bus and railroad station), boarded the Line 3 “Diretto Murano” vaporetto (water taxi) and drop off at the “Museo” vaporetto water bus stop. The museum is a short walk along the Fondamenta to your left as you get off the water bus.

Church of St. Peter Martyr (Venice, Italy)

The Church of St. Peter Martyr (Italian: Chiesa di San Pietro Martire), currently one of the two main Roman catholic parish churches (the other is the Basilica of St. Donato) and one of three remaining (before Napoleon there were 18, the third is the Church of St. Mary of the Angels ) in the island of Murano, near Venice, was edificated in 1348 along with a Dominican convent and was originally dedicated to St. John the Baptist.  In 1474, a fire razed it to the ground and, in 1511, it was rebuilt and enlarged to the current appearance and rededicated to St. Peter Martyr.

Church of St. Peter Martyr

In 1806, a few years after the fall of the Republic of Venice, it was closed but was reopened in 1813 as a parish church due to an initiative by Fr. Stefano Tosi, with art from other suppressed churches and monasteries on Murano and other islands. At its reopening the church was renamed St. Peter and Paul (S. Pietro e Paolo) but, in 1840, it reverted to its present name.

During the restoration of 1922-28, the original ceiling and the frescos of the saints above the pillars were revealed.  The colonnade from the demolished convent of Santa Chiara was also reassembled and attached to the west flank of the church in 1924. From 1981 to 1983, the church underwent a restoration campaign financed by the Italian Ministry of Culture.  The roof was repaired and the rotten brickwork was replaced. Save Venice provided emergency funding to repair stone parts of the two-light “bifora” window above the side entrance door.

The church’s Renaissance façade, of naked brickwork, is divided in three sections.  Its 16th-century portal is surmounted by a large rose window. On the left façade is a portico with Renaissance arcades and columns (perhaps what remains of the original cloister) and a bell tower, dating to 1498-1502 (its original bells came from England but have been recast many times since, most recently in 1942 after war damage). The church is 55 m. (180 ft.) long, 25 m. (82 ft.) wide and 13 m. (43 ft.) wide at the nave.

The impressively spacious and tall interior, with a basilica plan, has a nave and two aisles (divided from each other by rows of four arches supported by large columns), a wooden ceiling,  tie beams across the arches and the nave, a trussed roof, a wide and deep half-domed chancel, a high altar and three minor altars for each nave. The spandrels between the arches are nicely decorated with saints.  The quite large presbytery has barrel vaults and two small, wide and deep apsidal chapels.

In the right nave are artworks including a Baptism of Christ (attributed to Tintoretto, it came from above the high altar of the demolished San Giovanni dei Battuti on Murano) plus two works by Giovanni BelliniAssumption with Saints (1510–1513) and the Barbarigo Altarpiece (or The Madonna with Doge Agostino Barbarigo, 1488), taken from the nearby church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and brought here in 1815.

The row of arches supported by large columns

Other paintings include a St. Jerome in the Desert by Paolo Veronese (also from Santa Maria degli Angeli), St Agatha Visited in Prison by St. Peter and an Angel  (also by Veronese), the Barcaioli Altarpiece (or Virgin and Child with Saints) by Giovanni Agostino da Lodi (ca. 1500, it was previously thought to be by Basaiti and came from the demolished San Cristoforo delle Pace), a Deposition from the Cross by Giuseppe Porta, Saints Nicholas, Charles Borromeo and Lucy by Palma il Giovane (which came from the demolished church of Santi Biagio e Cataldo on Giudecca) and a 1495 Ecce Homo (perhaps from the destroyed church of Santo Stefano in Murano). In the left-hand apsidal chapel is a hard-to-see painting by Domenico Tintoretto while a pair of huge paintings by Bartolomeo Latteri (including an impressively architectural Nozze di Cana) covering both side walls of the deep chancel.

The Ballarin Chapel, at the church’s right wing, was built in 1506 after the death of Giuliano Ballarin, the eponymous glassmaker from Murano.

Chiesa di San Pietro Martire: Fondamenta dei Vetrai, Campiello Marco Michieli 3, 30141 Murano, Venice VE, Italy. Tel: +39 041 739704.  Open Mondays to Saturdays, 9 AM – 12 noon and 3 – 6 PM, and Sundays, 3- 6 PM.